Confab with waterfront developer could shed light on hotel mystery

Fishtown and Northern Liberties community leaders hope to find out next week what plans Michael Samschick has for his Delaware Avenue properties – and whether or not he is working with the group behind a mysterious flier seeking investments for an Old Havana-themed hotel.

The “saga” started last month, when a flier surfaced offering potential investors an opportunity to partake in O Havana, a 300-room luxury hotel with restaurants, a spa and a nightclub “in front of the SugarHouse Casino”, boasting retro Cuban flair that “has support from the City of Philadelphia, Delaware River Authority (sic) and the community.”

Trouble was, neither city planners, nor Fishtown Neighbors or Northern Liberties Neighbors, nor the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, nor the Central Delaware Advocacy Group had heard of the project.

And most of the contact information provided by the flier and an affiliated website didn’t work. And Google provided no evidence that other projects mentioned on the website existed.

PlanPhilly was able to reach O Havana Managing Partner Orlando E. Ballate by email. On a overseas business trip, he said he could not do a full interview, but identified O Havana’s local partner as Core Equities. Core Equity is Michael Samschick’s company, as is Core Realty.

Representatives from FNA and NLNA zoning committees plan to meet with Samschick Tuesday in hopes of solving the mystery.

“We don’t know exactly what this is,” Central Delaware Advocy Group Chairman Matt Ruben (he is also NLNA president) told CDAG at this week’s meeting. “It could be part of a very large series of developments, or it could be nothing. We don’t know.”

Matt Karp, zoning chair for FNA, said he wasn’t sure where a Samschick development would be. “We’ve asked about five times where it is, and they will not answer,” he said.

Of the O Havana flier, Karp said, “It’s not even clear that it’s specifically a project at all. It’s a flier made for investors. It could be an investment scam, I don’t know. It has lies on it. It says they have approval from the city…”

“Well, that’s just not true,” Ruben said. “And it was something – just to be clear – Samschick did not put the flier out. That was not him. But it seems as though he has some awareness of these people.”

Karp said Samshick has never told FNA that the project wasn’t his project.

“Well, the flier isn’t him,” Ruben said.

“It doesn’t pass the smell test, I’ll tell you that,” said CDAG member John Scorsone.

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